In a recent article titled ‘What Hindus can & should be proud of’ , published in a Chennai based daily, writer Ramachandra Guha presents a classic demonstration of how the pseudo-secular columnists invent arguments against Hindutva.  The writer presents as a Hindutva statement, a statement that is easy to counter and thrash.  An imaginary ‘bhadralok friend’ of his wants victory of 1971 to be considered as a Hindu victory, to make ‘India in general and Hindus in particular’ out of ‘the pacifist, defeatist mindset’. From this statement Guha makes a hyper-jump to Modi’s ‘Hindu nationalist’ statement.

By the time Guha finishes pontificating about how 1971 war was fought by a secular India and not Hindus and how 1992 demolition was a Hindu job, the reader, immersed in rhetoric, would have forgotten the fact that the claim of using the 1971 war victory, as a means to arouse Hindus out of ‘pacifist, defeatist’ mindset, is purely an imaginary invention of Guha. It has nothing to do with any statement by any Hindutva ideologue. Perhaps some brilliant acolytes of Guha may even be hoodwinked to believe that it was a statement actually made by Modi. [1]

But that is only the beginning.

1971 versus 1992

When it comes to Hindutva, the intent of Guha has always been to create binary stereotypes. It is a mission he carries out with equal measure of zest and deception in all his narratives. This involves depicting the Hindutva opposition to pseudo-secularism as the opposition of an obscurantist, orthodox, narrow theocratic dogma to a modern secular democracy. So he ties covertly and overtly all obscurantist features to Hindutva at every given opportunity.  The reader can notice how Guha refers to Indira Gandhi as one who had ‘notoriously been disallowed from entering the Jagannath temple in Puri because she had not married a Hindu’.

But he conveniently leaves out the fact that the same Indira Gandhi who was married to a non-Hindu was praised enormously by the leaders of ‘Hindu nationalist’ Jan Sangh in 1971, so much so that Atal Bihari Vajpayee, a Jana Sangh leader, compared her to Durga.

It would indeed be pertinent to ask Guha whether the mindset of the ‘bhadralok friend’, even if he was Guha’s own invention, would align with the orthodoxy of Jagannath temple authorities or the liberal praise showered on Indira Gandhi by ‘Hindu rightwing’ Jan Sangh?

Creating a Binary through a Trinity

A mediocre historian needs a framework of opposing binaries so that he can always pass rant and rhetoric as substitute for good research. On the other hand, a real historian like D.D.Kosambi or Dharampal deals in paradigms: either creating one with the freshly discovered data as Dharampal did or modifying an existing one as Kosambi did in the case of existing Marxist paradigm with his exhaustive research into ancient India.  

Guha thrives in binaries. Towards this end Guha presents his own trinity: Gandhi-Nehru-Ambedkar and shows how we have to be proud of them and there is nothing much Hindu about them. No. Gandhi was at best only a heterodox Hindu and orthodoxy had opposed him.

A Shankaracharya even petitioned British to declare Gandhi a non-Hindu, points out Guha.  Nehru was a lapsed Hindu whom ‘sants and shaka heads’ love to hate. Of course everyone knows Dr.Ambedkar left Hinduism in protest against caste system.  Guha points out the progressive democratic secular values of India, of which every Indian can and should be proud of, are the result of this not-so-Hindu trinity, which had at best, troubled if not, negative relation with Hinduism. And then he points out that Hindus have much to be ashamed of – like the atrocities on Dalits and women etc.

Against this Trinity of modern secular democracy, he pits the Hindu traditionalists and Hindu nationalists who conveniently get bundled together in Guha’s narrative. The stand that, if one is a Hindu nationalist, then he or she has been historically against the modern secular democratic ideals, needs gigantic negation of data from history. Equally to de-Hinduize Gandhi, Nehru and Ambedkar in the broad sense of the term Hindu, as Hindu nationalists use the term, one has to have an enormous amount of willing suspension of disbelief.

Dr.Ambedkar versus Dharma Shastras

Let us take the case of Dr.Ambedkar. Obviously he is a good candidate for the pseudo-seculars to beat Hinduism with. But a close scrutiny of his works shows that the good doctor has a worldview that gels more with Hindutva than with the pseudo-secularism peddled by the likes of Guha and Co. 

Starting from his emphatic statement that converting to Abrahamic creeds like Christianity or Islam would denationalize the Dalits, to his legal definition of the term ‘Hindu’ in Indian Constitution, there is a continuity of thought that negates everything held dear by today’s pseudo-secularist of every shade -from rustic Lallu to suave Guha.  

The Hindu Code Bill was opposed by orthodoxy including the elements inside the Nehru cabinet and outside.

There is no gain denying this was a blunder on the part of the Hindu nationalist movement that no credible voices of support came in favour of this monumental legal accomplishment in the history of Hinduism. But it has to be seen not as a singular failure of the Hindu nationalists alone as generally the divide was between orthodoxy and the progressive Hindus.

Dhananjay Keer records that ‘Veer Savarkar, the Hindusabha leader, said that Congress leaders should take up the Hindu Code Bill if it really helped the nation.’ [2] But what places the question of Hindu Code Bill debate entirely within the Hindutva framework alone is the statement made by Dr.Ambedkar himself in defense of the bill. On 11th January 1950, he said,

‘The present bill is progressive. This is an effort to have one civil law for all the citizens, under the constitution of India. The law is based on the religious scriptures of Hindus. [3]

The reader can notice that for Dr.Ambedkar the Hindu Code Bill is not only progressive but is also a step towards a common civil law for all citizens of India irrespective of their religion and also it is a law based on the religious scriptures of Hindus. In other words Dr.Ambedkar states that in essence Hindu scriptures can form the basis for drafting a progressive law and that law can and should become the basis for the common civil code for all citizens of Hindustan irrespective of their religion.

Only the Hindu leadership across the political spectrum failed to appreciate this vision of Dr.Ambedkar, which is a historical blunder, no less. However the vision of Dr. Ambedkar and the conflict he had with Hindu orthodoxy had to be placed entirely within the universe of Hindutva and does not belong to the realm of pseudo-secularism.

Gandhi: From ‘Christian influenced thinker’ to ‘Heterodox Hindu’

Now let us take the presiding deity in the Trinity positioned by Guha. For all the sanctimonious pretensions of Guha in reinventing Gandhi as a heterodox Hindu, Gandhi himself has stated time and again that he was a Sanatani Hindu.

One can trust Ramachandra Guha the intellectual Rambo to rescue Gandhi from Gandhi’s own pseudo-secular incorrect stand.  Even terming Gandhi a heterodox Hindu is a concession Guha allows his native readers to indulge in. Because for Guha Gandhi should be categorized as an ‘intensely political, pragmatic Christian influenced thinker’. The context was the subject of deep ecology.  Guha was then decrying Arne Naess, a Norwegian philosopher who had coined the term ‘Deep Ecology’ and was the intellectual fountainhead behind the ‘Deep Ecology’ movement. His fault was that he considered Gandhi as a major source of inspiration and traced a Vedantic basis to Gandhi’s holistic vision.

Gandhian Vision for Environmentalism

Generally the deep ecologists view the Hindu-Buddhist-Tao worldviews as more consistent with the philosophy of deep ecology.  Guha finds this unbearable. His opposition was on two grounds: one is that deep ecology is not suited for India and even harmful to India. Arne Naess himself had refuted this charge as stemming from a misinterpretation of deep ecology by Guha. [4] However what is relevant to the current discussion is the disdain with which Guha rejects any relation between Hinduism and Gandhi’s vision, which is now being increasingly realized as having a strong relevance to environmental movement across the globe. Guha cannot stand categorizing Gandhi as an Eastern thinker.

Guha criticizes deep ecology because in it the  “complex and internally differentiated religious traditions -Hinduism, Buddhism and Taoism- are lumped together as holding a view of nature believed to be quintessentially bio centric…” After chiding deep ecologists for ”persistent invocation of eastern philosophies as an antecedent in point of time but convergent in their structure with deep ecology‘ he laments that ‘even an intensely political, pragmatic, and Christian influenced thinker such as Gandhi has been accorded a wholly undeserving place in the deep ecological pantheon‘. [5]

Actually the thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi which have a relevance to ecology in general and eco-friendly people-oriented technologies in particular have a strong Vedantic root. It can be shown that in the development of Gandhian thought which is relevant to the modern environmental movements; the influence has been through the interpretation of Vedanta by Swami Vivekananda and the writings of Gurudev Tagore. Tagore in turn was highly influenced in this aspect by both Vivekananda and Bose. Indic influence on the views of Gandhi which offer a philosophical basis for Indic environmental movement is a well-documented fact.

David Gosling says that Swami Vivekananda, whose insistence on ‘the solidarity of the whole universe’, ranging from ‘the lowest worm that crawls…to the highest beings that ever lived’, might have formed the basis for an environmental ethic, had his main concern not been the removal of social inequality. Gosling further conceded that Vivekananda’s affirmative this-worldly ethic, which he expressed through the Karma-yoga of the Bhagavad Gita, exerted a strong influence on Gandhi. [6] It was a Tamil Christian economist Joseph Cornelius Kumarappa who inherited and enlarged upon this aspect of Gandhian thought.  Interestingly J C Kumarappa had made a criticism of Abrahamic theology that sees physical labour as a curse as the reason for the techno-centric approach of the West and its predatory economic system. [7]

But Gandhiji, with typical Hindu ingenuity, inverses the purport of this Biblical statement though wrongly attributing it to Jesus.  Instead of being seen as a curse to be escaped, Gandhi says that physical work should be seen as a rule for earning food in which case “there would be very little illness on earth and little hideous surroundings.” [8] In other words it is not ‘Christian influence’ on Mahatma Gandhi that was at work in his thoughts that are today considered to have ecological relevance but it was his globalizing of Hindu Karma Yoga and Vedanta contextualizing them for a wider theo-civilizational milieus that makes him relevant for the philosophical frameworks for the environmental movements even outside India.

Here one cannot but be reminded of the classic Lynn White (Jr)’s paper tracing the environmental problems to the West’s Abrahamic theological core. Curiously Lynn White makes the suggestion that Francis of Assisi was influenced consciously or unconsciously by “Cathar heretics who at that time teemed in Italy and southern France, and who presumably had got it originally from India!”[9] It may be historically inaccurate but that does provide how the Indic system is perceived in the context of global environmental crisis – something which Guha wants to undo.

The longer explanation of this issue here is just to show how anxious Guha is to remove any positive association of Hinduism with either Gandhi or with ecology. It is in the context of this problematic mindset of Guha that his categorizing of Gandhi as ‘heterodox Hindu’ should be viewed. And now let us move on to the next question. Was Gandhi a representative of purely modern values of Western democracy merely in the garb of an oriental wise man image, as Guha suggests?

Continuity of Tradition or Imported Modernity?

Contrary to the image of Gandhi as someone who was essentially a modernist, Gandhi was not averse to using the informal Hindu network of saints, ascetics and wandering monks. Many of these monks later played an important role in fighting the social evils as well as in the freedom struggle. A government observer’s report on the Nagpur session of the Congress of 1920 reveals that hundreds of Naga Sadhus attended this session. Gandhi personally thanked these monks and urged them to spread the message of non-cooperation movement in the vicinity of cantonments and military stations. [10] British historian William Pinch, not exactly a person given to like Hinduism much less Hindutva, states that the British were convinced that Gandhi could speak for the peasants of India because he could speak to the monks of India.

In other words ‘the intensely political, pragmatic’ nature of Gandhi has to be seen as a continuation and evolution of the Hindu ascetic who speaks for common Indian peasant. Then it was not the imported Christian-influenced western modernity that made Gandhi unique but it was Gandhi’s rooted nature in Hindu culture and his facing colonialism with this rootedness that made Gandhi unique and makes him relevant to this day.  Thus Gandhi has to be seen both in his vision and mission, rightly as a meta-orthodox Hindu as the so-called orthodox Hinduism contains within it various heterodox traditions.

Hindu Nationalist Criticism of Pseudo-Secularism = Opposition of Orthodoxy to Social Reforms?

At the core of Guha’s bundle of deceptions lies the morphing of Hindu nationalist critique of Gandhi with the opposition of the orthodoxy to social reforms at that time. The Hindu nationalist critique of Gandhi was that he was appeasing the Islamist forces. The orthodoxy was actually opposing Gandhi for his social reform movements like abolition of untouchability, agitation for the civil rights of entering the temples, using the public streets etc.  The truth is some of the greatest supporters of Gandhi’s Hindu-Muslim unity (read Muslim appeasement policy) were the staunchest opponents of social reforms.  On the other side of the coin the Hindu nationalists who were strongly critical of Gandhi’s appeasement policy with Islamist forces, were in many instances, more radical than Congress in implementing the reformist agenda.

Shankaracharya and Shankaracharyas: The Guha deception.

As a proof of heterodox Hindu nature of Gandhi, Guha throws at the face of Hindus the fact that a Shankaracharya petitioned the British that Gandhi be termed a non-Hindu.  But somehow he forgets to mention that Sri Bharathi Krishna TeerthaShankaracharya of Dwaraka, was arrested by the British for taking part in the pro-Islamist Khilafat movement launched by Gandhi.  He was arrested in 1921 for delivering a speech at the Khilafat Conference held at Karachi.

He was again arrested on 26- Dec-1922. He was asked to give a surety not to deliver lecture for one year or undergo imprisonment for one year. Shankaracharya preferred to undergo imprisonment. He was kept in Bhagalpur jail for a year and was released in 1924. [11] In the wake of the assassination of Swami Shradhanand  Gandhi was sceptical of mending the Hindu Muslim relationships again, It was  then Sri Chandrasekarendra Saraswathi , the Shankaracharya of Kanchi who persuaded Gandhi to go forward with Hindu-Muslim unity. [12]

Both the Shankaracharyas were strongly opposed to the social reform programmes of not only Gandhi but also Arya Samaj and Hindu Mahasabha. The Shankaracharya of Kanchi, who advised Gandhi to go ahead with Hindu-Muslim unity undeterred by the assassination of Swami Sharddhanand by Islamist, gave his complete blessings to a team of orthodoxy which left for Kerala to campaign against the temple entry of Dalits which Gandhi supported. [13] And this happened after the Malabar Hindus were cruelly butchered and converted by Moplah Muslims showing them the acute need for social unity.   The high powers of Hindu orthodoxy supported Hindu-Muslim unity.

Ever vigilant Dr.Ambedkar made a brutally blunt yet objective assessment of this phenomenon. Cautioning Dalits against the temptation of siding with Muslims, he pointed out how he  got his first severe jolt when he found that ‘almost all the Muslims got ready to oppose the essential Act like Sarda Act along with the obsolete and puranic, fundamentalists and revivalist orthodox Hindus.’  The second experience was at London during the Round Table Conference, when a special telegram from the president of Varnashram Brahman Sangha was received by a Muslim delegate, Mr. Gazanavi.

It was a message that Muslims should cooperate with orthodox Hindus in opposing the Untouchables temple entry movement. And Dr. Ambedkar records that the Muslims obliged. [14] In other words, Hindu-Muslim unity was forged to oppose the social reform movement pioneered by a Hindu Nationalist as we will see later!

…and those who Opposed the Appeasement Policy

It is interesting to see that some of the greatest social reform fighters had been some of the strongest critics of Gandhi’s Muslim appeasement policy. Swami Shradhanand was one of the bitter most critics of Gandhi. However this Hindu Sanghatan leader was called by none other than Baba Saheb Ambedkar as ‘the greatest and the most sincere champion‘ of Dalits. [15] He was also the first person to give the term Dalit. [16] The letters of Hindu nationalist Swami Shradhanand to the then high command of Congress and its lieutenants reveal an interesting fact. Here we see the Hindu Sanghatanist pursuing vigorously a radical programme for the emancipation of Dalits and the Nehru-Gandhi high command backtracking in the same issue.

In a letter written to Mahatma Gandhi is 1921 (September) Swami Sharddhanand drew the attention of the Mahatma to the fact that in Delhi and Agra all that the Dalits were demanding was that they be allowed to draw water from the wells used both by Hindus and Muslims and that water be not served to them through bamboos or leaves. “Even this appears impossible for the Congress Committee to accomplish.” the Swami pointed out in his letter with a heavy heart. In 1922 he wrote to Congress leader Vithalbhai Patel describing how Gandhi had relegated to an obscure corner the emancipation of Dalits. [17]

When Muslim League placed its 14 point agenda which even the pro-Islamist Simon Commission could not endorse these demands. Sikhs also feared a complete Islamist domination.  In 1928 Congress came out with its Nehru report which also rightly rejected the League demands.  However Gandhi declared at the Jamiat-ul-Ulema on March 1931 that he wished to give Muslims what they wanted. He further urged Congress to concede whatever Muslims wanted as a price for securing a “united nation” in India. One of the strongest opposition to the League demands and Gandhi’s appeasement policy came from M.R.Jayakar, the working committee member of Hindu Mahasabha. In his letter to Gandhi Jayakar pleaded with Gandhi not to yield to Muslim demands warning him that rejection of Nehru report with an aim of Islamist appeasement would have far-reaching consequences.

[18] This fierce opponent of Gandhi and a Hindu nationalist was no traditionalist. He was one of the foremost champions who fought for the educational and job rights of the Dalits.  Dr.Ambedkar sets the background in which M.R.Jayakar raised his voice for Dalits.  Though the legislative bodies were established in India as early as 1861 by the British only on two occasions the Dalits were mentioned. The first occasion was in 1916 when a Parsi member moved the resolution that “a small representative committee of officials and non-officials for an amelioration in the moral, material and educational condition of what are known as the Depressed Classes, and that, as a preliminary step the local government and administrations be invited to formulate schemes with due regard to local conditions.”

The next voice for Dalit empowerment was raised by M.R.Jayakar and that was in 1928. The resolution he moved was that the assembly should recommend to the Governor-General in Council to issue directions to all Local Governments to provide special facilities for the education of the Untouchables and other depressed classes, and also for opening all public services to them, specially the Police.

[19] It was a move to really empower the Dalits. The legacy of Hindu nationalists in effecting the empowerment of the marginalized sections of the society is second to none and in many instances it has been the pioneering guiding light for the future affirmative action programmes of the ‘free democratic sovereign state’ of India – incidentally those were the words introduced by M.R.Jayakar through an amendment at the Constituent Assembly dated 13-12-1946. Let it also be said that despite bitterly opposed to Muslim League, the democratic Hindu nationalist Jayakar thwarted an undemocratic plot by Congress to exclude the Muslim members from attending this session.

Another bitter critic of Gandhi over his Islamist appeasement policy was Dr. Narayan Bhaskar Khare. He was the elected head of the Central Provinces and was dismissed by Nehru following the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi.  Nor was he a traditionalist by any stretch of imagination. In 1930s, he appointed a Dalit minister in his cabinet for which he was taken to task by the then Congress high command and he was sacked by the then Congress high command.  Dr.Ambedkar made a scathing attack on Mahatma for this abject betrayal of Dalit cause. [20] Dr.Khare was also instrumental in securing the Arya Marriage Validation Bill on the Statute Book, which allowed a large scale widow remarriages and marriages breaking the caste boundaries. This was also the forerunner in legally liberating marriages from birth-based priesthood.

Dr. Khare also was the initiator of a fight against racism that was globally significant. He tirelessly laboured to fight for the rights of people of Indian origin in South Africa, petitioning UN against South Africa even before independence. In this he made a wonderful use of his position as the charge of the department of the Indian Overseas in Viceroy’s executive member. It was an unprecedented move. It is another story that Nehru unceremoniously appropriated the results of Khare’s labour with naked nepotism and basked in glory.  Historian Lorna Lloyd grudgingly acknowledges, that it was the chain of events initiated by Khare’s petition to UN against South Africa, that ‘provided an opening for an outright assault on the foundation of the political system of South Africa’ which was then apartheid. [21]

Dr.Ambedkar himself made an elaborate criticism of the appeasement policy which to this day is passed on as ‘secularism’ in Indian political parlance. He minced no words when he warned the Hindus that the Gandhian policy of appeasement would “involve the Hindus in the same fearful situation in which the Allies found themselves as a result of the policy of appeasement which they adopted towards Hitler.”  This policy of Gandhian appeasement which was in many ways the precursor of modern pseudo-secularism is in the view of Dr.Ambedkar “another malaise, no less acute than the malaise of social stagnation“. [22]Today’s pseudo-secularism that is passed on as secularism and for which Guha bats is the continuation of this malaise. What is more the dominant caste vote-banks have also merged with their anti-Dalit disease of the mind with the appeasement of the vote bank politics of the expansionist minorities who have globalized networks – resulting in the colonization of India through theo-imperialism.

The story does not end here.  In fact some of the very important reform achievements of those times, to which we owe the positive aspects of modern Indian democracy, were the results of the sweat and toil of Hindu nationalists.

Hindu Nationalists as the Pioneers of Social Reforms

For any student of social science, studying the women empowerment in a society that is in transition from pre-modernity to modernity, one of the vital indicators would be the marriage age of the girls. Legal prohibition of marrying off the girl children in the name of custom and tradition plays an important role in making women achieve education and get empowerment in the society.

Towards this social reformers in India fought a very tough battle. Important pioneers who paved the way for stopping the child marriage were among them were Hari Singh Gour  who through his repeated appeals to recognize the  standards of modern clinical psychology was able to pass the law that raised the age of consent for girl children from 12 to 14.  That war for raising the marriage age of women and prohibition of child marriage was further taken up by Harbilas Sarda. The struggle was tough.

Many great men like Dr.Ambedkar stood with Sarda shoulder to shoulder. Due to all their efforts ‘The Child Marriage Restraint Act’, also known as the Sarda Act was passed on October 1 1929. It was a crowning glory for the social reform movement in India. While the abolition of Sati was a great victory for social reform, it was actually dealing with essentially localized and invariable colonially exaggerated phenomenon. But Sarda Act had and still has strong implications for the nation as whole and made women participate in large numbers in the coming Gandhian movement. Women empowerment became possible thanks to Sarda Act. The implication of these acts for the participation of large number of women in the struggle for Indian independence is brought out by Dr.Muthulakshmi Reddy, medical practitioner, social reformer and the first woman legislator in India:

… Sir Hari Singh Gour was responsible for raising the age of consent for girls another humanitarian act. Sir Haribalas Sarda worked for the act which restrains child marriages. So we have much for which we must thank our men. It is not strange that now, when they want political freedom, we women are willing to stand beside them in their effort to attain it. [23]

Hari Singh Gour was the member of the Legal Advisory Committee of the Hindu Mahasabha. Harbilas Sarda was one of the strongest proponents of pan-Hindutva. In his book Sarda has envisaged a common Indic based for Buddhism and Vedic religion and groups religions of Indic origin together. [24] Such a broad categorization of Hindu cultural unity, based on Hindu-Buddhist-Jain-Sikh unity, rather than based on the authority of Vedas, is hallmark of the thoughts of both Veer Savarkar and Baba Saheb Ambedkar.

This is even more interesting for Harbilas Sarda was able to enlarge the definition by seeing Buddhism as not differing “materially from the Vedic religion in its scientific aspects“, even though he belonged to Arya Samaj. The fight against the child marriage which Harbilas Sarda gave was part of the larger social emancipation movement created by Arya Samaj of which he was a member.

The Arya Samaj with its anti-caste and pro-woman empowerment played a very important role in the emergence of what is called Hindu Sanghatan (Hindu Unity) movement. Arya Samaj was instrumental in creating an effective chain of schools and service institutions.

The British were alarmed. So much so that from Lucknow Sir Hercourt Butler, the Lieutenant Governor of Oudh and North West Provinces wrote to Sir Dunlop Smith in London that ‘Arya Somaj was a dangerous movement’. Why? Because it combined ‘an appeal to national feeling with a tendency to elevate the low castes’. Why? Because the women education was taken up by ‘Arya Somaj‘ and ‘our position in the country will be almost hopeless, if the women are trained up in hostility to us’.  There was historical precedent too noted the colonial administrator, ‘Shivaji did that and so has every Hindu leader…’ [25]

Thus Hindu nationalism as a political movement has a vibrant heritage of social reform. Inside the vast and diverse realm of Hindu nationalism also the traditionalists and the reformers clashed.  However for the historians of Guha variety this is problematic for their own fabricated narrative of Indian history, where the bad fundamentalist Hindu Right are held at bay by  an ever vigilant  liberal secular progressive forces.

So what does Guha do with such data? Simple. He pretends as if these things simply do not exist or that they are insignificant in the course of history.

As stated earlier any anthropologist worth his salt studying a society’s reforms would have zeroed in on that movement that contributed to the raising of the marriage age of women in that society. But one can go through the 537 pages of ‘Makers of Modern India’ (Penguin/Viking, 2010) and there is not a single reference to Harbilas Sarda, not to mention, Arya Samaj.  So much for objective scientific vision of the Nehruvian school of historians! But they are just following their master. Dhananjay Kheer the official biographer of both Veer Savarkar and Baba Saheb Ambedkar caustically observes:

Have you come across any history of England that does not speak of Trafalgar and Waterloo? Have you come across any history of India without the mention of Chitor? Behold, it is Nehru’s Discovery of India! [26]

Did not that great original fatherland of Nehruvians banish Einstein from the realm of physics because he denied the ether which was the direct fall out of the Marxist Revelation ‘Dialectical Materialism’? So do Guha and Nehruvian historians of his ilk banish the memories of Hindu nationalists who spearheaded the social reform movements in ‘in the most contentious times in the most interesting country in the world’ as back blurb of Guha’s book says?

So what a real secularist should be proud of in India… and what he should be ashamed of?


He can be proud of the sustained battle against caste the pioneers and the greatest and sincere most champions of which came from the ranks of Hindu Sanghatan.    He can be proud that the tradition continues in Vajpayee touching the feet of Chinnathayee and Modi touching the feet of the elderly Sikh lady.  He can be proud of Modi making Dalits temple priests in the conservative Gujarat.  He can be proud of the fact that it was Jan Sangh which first outlawed manual scavenging in India in the municipality it won. And he should be ashamed of pseudo-secularists who stood by Laloo Prasad when his henchmen and Islamist colleague burnt the feet of the Dalit workers and urinated on them.

She can be proud of the continued fight waged by social reformers, even in that colonial age of depravity, against both colonial authorities and orthodoxy, to secure the rights of women, the battle in which soulful contribution was made by Hindu nationalists. And she has to be ashamed of the pseudo-secularism which today is ready to approve a reverse the process because of the lure of vote banks presented by Islamic fundamentalists. She can be proud of the brilliant contribution India made in the fight against racism in which Hindu nationalists made a path breaking innovation. 

But she has to be ashamed that India is today made voiceless to protest against the religious apartheid which is doing a humiliating ethnic cleansing of people of Indian culture in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Malaysia; that it was a mute witness to a genocide war in which Tamils were killed most brutally in Sri Lanka; that it cannot raise its voice for Tibet in a dignified manner.

To say it all in one line: An Indian secularist should be proud of Hindutva and should be ashamed of pseudo-secularism. Perhaps that may be the reason why Gen. Jacob-Farj-Rafael Jacob who beat Pakistan in 1971 war chose to join the ‘Hindu nationalist’ Bharatiya Janata Party which is truly secular and truly democratic than can ever be dreamt of in Guha’s worldview.

… a very Happy Independence Day!

(References in Page 2)

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Aravindan Neelakandan

Co-author of acclaimed book "Breaking India", Aravindan Neelakandan has worked for the past decade with an NGO in Tamil Nadu serving marginalized rural communities in sustainable agriculture. He is also a popular science writer in Tamil and is part of the editorial team of highly popular Tamil web portal

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